Warning: SPOILERS below for Top Gun: Maverick.
Nick “Goose” Bradshaw’s death is one of Top Gun‘s best moments, and Top Gun: Maverick makes it even better. There are several aspects of the 1986 original movie that Maverick re–handles, including Tom “Iceman” Kazansky’s (Val Kilmer), rise to U.S. Navy Admiral. However, the most compelling legacy-inspired storyline of the Top Gun sequel is the relationship between Captain Peter “Maverick” Mitchell (Tom Cruise) and Goose’s son, Lieutenant Bradley “Rooster” Bradshaw (Miles Teller), who is one of the new characters in Top Gun: Maverick that Maverick is asked to train.
Goose dies in Top Gun during a training exercise that is designed to pit rivals Maverick and Iceman against each other, as both try to prove that they are the best pilot. After flying through Iceman’s jetwash, Maverick loses control of the aircraft that he and Goose are in. The two try to eject, and while Maverick parachutes to safety, Goose dies when he is thrust directly into the plane’s canopy that hadn’t jettisoned far enough away from his ejection path. Goose’s passing is one of Top Gun‘s best but saddest scenes – and plays a significant part in Top Gun: Maverick because Captain Mitchell still feels responsible almost four decades later.
Goose’s death becomes more meaningful in Top Gun: Maverick because of the emotionally charged dynamic it creates between Rooster and Maverick. Rooster’s hatred for Maverick goes beyond Goose’s death because Maverick, on Rooster’s mother’s request, also blocked his Navy application, which set his career back four years. Goose’s son wants nothing to do with Maverick, but over the course of Maverick, their relationship develops as Maverick proves through his piloting expertise that there was nothing he could have done to save his father. Goose’s legacy is honored perfectly in Top Gun: Maverick when Maverick sacrifices himself to save Rooster, his new wingman, from the brink of death. Rooster then coming back to save Maverick during their subsequent mission was a great way to end their feud and wrap up Goose’s story – making his heartbreaking death an even better plot device.
References to Goose’s death are also made with notable near-misses during flying practice that the pilots undergo to prepare for their final mission to take down Top Gun: Maverick‘s mysterious villains. Captain Mitchell’s strenuous training regime for the young pilots is designed to ensure that they are fast enough and can withstand the amount of G-force they will face during their mission. But Javy “Coyote” Machado (Greg Davis) passes out during practice, and his plane hurtles towards the ground. Thankfully, Maverick saves Coyote seconds before he crashes, giving him a cathartic moment and a small slice of redemption after not being able to do the same for Goose.
In a scene reminiscent of Goose’s tragic death in Top Gun, Natasha “Phoenix” Trace (Monica Barbaro) and Robert “Bob” Floyd (Lewis Pullman) also find themselves struggling with Maverick’s training and have to eject from their aircraft. Fortunately, unlike Goose, the two survive, providing more relief for Maverick as none of his young team suffer the same fate as his best friend. The universally praised Top Gun: Maverick handles key parts of the original movie well, and, in particular, it deals with Goose’s legacy in a way that improves his Top Gun death.
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